Crusaders 3 Ballymena United 2
Roy Walker possibly hasn’t compiled his Christmas card list yet but one thing is certain — referee Raymond Crangle is unlikely to make a shock appearance on it.
‘Shock’ sums up how the Ballymena United boss was feeling when Crangle awarded a controversial free-kick to the Crues for keeper Wayne Drummond scooping up a deliberate back pass.
United argued that Davy Munster sliced an attempted clearance back to the shot-stopper and to compound their misery, the set-piece resulted in a goal from Jordan Owens which the visitors believed was offside.
It was two blows in quick succession that floored the Sky Blues and they never really recovered from it despite rallying in the second half.
The Crues, who had their skipper Colin Coates sent off for a heavy challenge on Alan Taggart, should have been on easy street while 3-1 ahead but in the end they were fortunate to escape with all three points.
Walker had that old ‘we were robbed’ feeling managers often get.
“The goalkeeper (Wayne Drummond) didn’t knock it clear because he knew it wasn’t a back pass,” insisted Walker. “That’s why. If he has any doubt he kicks it but he has no doubt. We’ve no doubt. The boy sliced it.
“I thought Jordan was offside as well but I could have got that wrong,” Walker added.
Crues’ boss Stephen Baxter had no complaints over Coates’ sending off which the referee got right.